Off-Campus Housing

Off-Campus Housing is an independent living environment, including options for students coming to Nanaimo with their families. The housing market in Nanaimo can be a bit of a challenge to navigate. While there are various types of accommodation to choose from, like single unit apartments, secondary suites, condos, or even private homestays; it may take some time searching for the perfect new home.

Please be aware that off-campus accommodation options are not verified by VIU for quality or legitimacy, and that any private accommodation is solely the renter’s responsibility. VIU is not a party in any off-campus housing agreement. The student must read the agreement carefully, understand the terms, and be fully responsible for the terms of the agreement before they sign any documentation. The Government of BC has a fact sheet that outlines your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

Places4Students.com

Off-Campus Housing Options

Places4Students is an online listing service that specializes in providing rental housing options for students. Listings are in real-time; accessible 24/7; descriptive with photos, amenity icons, floor plans and include mapping from each rental property to campus; Smart Search features, and much more! Check out their website for more information

Places4Students

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I am overwhelmed. I don’t know how to decide on a place amid all the housing options.
    Choosing the accommodation that is right for you can be daunting. It’s important to consider your needs – for example, do you plan to use the transit or will you be getting a car? Would you need car parking? Do you need to be close to campus or is there any other area of Nanaimo that would be more suitable for you? When deciding on where to live, you will have to consider multiple factors and weigh your options. What are the pros and cons of each place? More importantly, how do you rank those pros and cons? To help you focus your search, use this worksheet to prioritize various housing features, and write notes about what you are looking for. This worksheet will help you make sense of the options that you have and help you decide which option meets your preferences the best. Source: RentingitRight

  • How do I figure out how much rent I can afford?
    It is important to be realistic about how much rent you can afford to pay each month. You don’t want to get into a situation that is unmanageable. Planning ahead and making a budget is the best way to understand how much rent you can afford? To get a sense of this, you will need to know what your actual monthly expenses will be and how much money you will have to cover these costs. Skipping meals, never turning on lights, or walking 10 km to the university are not realistic options! It's important to have a budget before you start looking for a place to rent.
    This worksheet can help you prepare budgets. Preparing a budget will help you determine how much rent you can afford. Source: RentingitRight
    Generally, up to 33% of your monthly income can be considered a reasonable share for rent.

  • I have been hearing about rental ad scams. What are some common indicators of scams in off-campus housing?
    Scams are not uncommon. International students may be more vulnerable to fall prey to such scams. Signs of a scam can include things like a poorly written ad with bad grammar and spelling mistakes, or excuses about why the landlord is not available or why you can’t view the unit. You should also be careful about someone who asks for money in advance, or other personal information like Social Insurance Number (SIN) or bank account details. This is not a comprehensive list, and there are many other ways in which scam artists can get to you. Trust your gut feeling, and stay away from something that doesn’t feel right.
  • I am looking for off-campus housing. How can I tell if a listing is legitimate?It is very hard to determine the legitimacy of a property listing without actually viewing the property and meeting with the landlord/property manager in person. Though not fool-proof, university-endorsed platforms like Places4Students are always safer ways of finding legitimate properties. Other external platforms like Facebook groups, Craigslist, Kijiji, etc. have a lot of legitimate rental listings, but you need to be careful of the scams. Never send money to someone you have yet to meet, and never pay a deposit before you have viewed the rental unit. If you are suspicious of a potential landlord, trust your instincts. To avoid rental scams, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Is the rent suspiciously low? How much do similar rental units in the neighborhood cost?
    • Are you being asked to mail your deposit in cash or send it electronically?
    • Is the person you are contacting not willing to arrange an in-person viewing?
    • Does the person you are contacting seem too eager? Most landlords will ask for references and/or a credit check before committing to a tenant.
    • What do the neighbors say? Depending on the type of housing, you may be able to ask people living nearby about the owner and property.
    • Is the person making excuses, like they are in the US, and can’t meet you/show you the property?

Follow your gut feeling and ask lots of questions in order to weed out the suspicious landlords.

  • I am finalizing a place to move in next month. I have seen the pictures and they look great, but the landlord isn’t available to show me the place in-person and is insisting that I pay a deposit to secure the place. Is it safe to do so?
    That’s a great question! It is encouraged that you sign a lease and/or pay any money ONLY AFTER you have personally visited the property and have met with the landlord/property manager. It is in your best interest to do your due diligence and make sure that it is a legitimate place and a genuine person before you finalize anything with them. You should be aware that VIU is not a party in any off-campus housing agreement. You must read the agreement carefully, understand the terms, and be fully responsible for the terms of the agreement before you sign any documentation.
  • I am finalizing a place to move in next month. I have seen the pictures and they look great, but the landlord isn’t available to show me the place in-person and is insisting that I pay a deposit to secure the place. Is it safe to do so?
    That’s a great question! It is encouraged that you sign a lease and/or pay any money ONLY AFTER you have personally visited the property and have met with the landlord/property manager. It is in your best interest to do your due diligence and make sure that it is a legitimate place and a genuine person before you finalize anything with them. You should be aware that VIU is not a party in any off-campus housing agreement. You must read the agreement carefully, understand the terms, and be fully responsible for the terms of the agreement before you sign any documentation.

 

  • Other than rent and a security deposit, are there other expenses when I first move into an off-campus accommodation?
    There are various one-time expenses that you need to consider if you are planning to move off-campus. In terms of utilities, you may have to provide a deposit to utility companies for electricity, gas, cable, internet, and/or home phone services. These individual deposits maybe hundreds of dollars! On top of that, you might also have to pay installation or activation fees, so look out for those costs too. Moving into a new place isn't cheap. Do you need to rent a moving truck, or buy boxes? Is your new home furnished? Do you have all the appliances you need? Things like cutlery, a microwave, and a TV. What about a couch, dresser, bed, and other pieces of furniture? All of these expenses can really add up. To learn more, visit RentingItRight. You can also use this One-time Move-in Expenses worksheet that can help you plan for these additional expenses.

  • What do I have to do to get my security deposit back at the end of my tenancy?
    First, provide your landlord with your forwarding address in writing for where your deposit can be sent. As is the case with all communication during your tenancy, make sure you have proof of how you gave your landlord your forwarding address, such as a witness or confirmation that it was delivered by registered mail. See TRAC’s template letter. You can also write your forwarding address on the condition inspection report form.

    Once your tenancy has officially ended and you have provided your forwarding address in writing, your landlord has 15 days to do one of three things:
    • Return your deposit
    • Get your written consent to keep some or all of your deposit
    • Apply for dispute resolution to keep some or all of your deposit

Your landlord cannot simply decide that they are going to keep your deposit. If they want it, they need to have written permission from you or the Residential Tenancy Branch.

After 15 days, if your landlord hasn’t returned your deposit, obtained your written consent, or applied for dispute resolution, the law allows you to take them to dispute resolution for double the amount of the deposit.

  • Do I need to provide references?
    Most rental applications ask for your rental and employment history. You may be asked to provide references from both previous and current landlords and employers. Landlords ask for this information to determine what type of person you are, and how you will behave as a tenant. They are trying to ensure that you won’t pay the rent late, damage the unit, disturb others, or otherwise cause problems. For first-time renters, international students, and people without a strong employment background, it may be challenging to provide references. If you anticipate references being a problem, there are ways of overcoming this issue.

  • What do I do if I don’t have references?
    If you do not have any references from previous landlords, try to get references from employers, coaches, teachers, family friends, volunteer supervisors, or anyone else who can provide a positive description of your character. If a reference says you're always on time for your volunteer shifts, that's a good indication that you will be on time with rent. Or, if you have an employer who claims that you display a caring attitude in the workplace, that may help convince a landlord that you will care for their property. The certificate you receive from passing this course can also be used as a reference. It shows that you have taken the time to educate yourself on what it means to be a good tenant.

  • What can I do if I have bad credit?
    If you are concerned about your credit history, here are some strategies to help you increase your chances of submitting a successful rental application. 
    Be Honest – If you know that you have credit issues and that a potential landlord will be running a credit report on you, let them know about your issues before they discover them on their own. This will demonstrate your honesty, and allow you to remain in control of how the information is received by the landlord.
    Explain your Situation – Landlords may be more likely to accept you as a tenant if you can explain how you arrived at your current situation. For example, if you experienced an injury that put you out of work, or had to take care of a family member for an extended period of time, your credit history may speak more to those previous life circumstances, rather than an inability to manage your money in the future.
    Prove Financial Security – Show the landlord that your current situation will allow you to pay your full rent on time. Proof of your financial security may include pay stubs, a letter of employment, confirmation of government benefits, or a statement of the available amount on a line of credit or other loans.
    Prove Reliability – Show the landlord that you can be trusted to pay your full rent on time by providing positive examples of past behavior. References from previous landlords stating that you always paid your rent on time, a letter from your current employer indicating your ability to meet deadlines, and statements from other people in your life who have experienced your reliability are all good examples.

  • If my friend, who is visiting me, causes any damage to the house, who is responsible?
    When you invite guests on to your landlord’s property, you are legally responsible for their behavior. You have to make sure that your guests are not violating other tenants’ quiet enjoyment, not causing damage to the property, and not engaging in illegal activity. If your guests cause these types of problems, your landlord may be able to restrict their access. If you continually allow your guests to cause problems, your landlord may issue you a warning letter and/or eviction notice.


  • When things break in my rental unit, who has to fix them?
    Landlords are generally responsible for making repairs to your rental unit. Every landlord in BC has a legal obligation to repair and maintain their rental property so that it meets health, safety, and housing standards. To learn more about these standards, refer to the Tenancy Policy Guidelines. Your landlord is also responsible for pests and mold. If you have bedbugs, mice, cockroaches, or other nasty critters living in your unit, your landlord should hire a professional pest control company to remove them. Your landlord should also address serious mold issues that you are unable to safely or adequately clean up on your own.

  • If I have a month-to-month tenancy, how much notice do I have to give my landlord when I want to move out?
    When ending a month-to-month tenancy, you need to give your landlord one full month written notice. If you are like most tenants and pay rent on the 1st of the month, then your move-out date will be the day before – that is, the last day of the month. On that final day, your tenancy legally ends at 1 pm.
    Let’s look at a scenario. If you plan to move out on September 30, your landlord would have to receive your written notice no later than August 31. If you give notice on September 1, then all of October would become your one-month notice, and the last day of your tenancy would be October 31. In other words, being even one day late giving notice could end up costing you another month of rent.

  • If I have a fixed-term tenancy, how much notice do I have to give my landlord when I want to move out?
    If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement, (often referred to as a “lease”) you should check to see if it includes a move-out date. Some fixed-term tenancy agreements include a term that requires the tenant to move out at the end of the fixed length of time. If this is the case, you will have to move out on or before that date, and you do not need to provide notice to your landlord.
    If your fixed-term tenancy agreement does not have a move-out clause, then your tenancy will most likely automatically continue as a month-to-month agreement. If you do not want your tenancy to continue, then you will have to give your landlord one full month notice to move out.

 

  • What do I have to do to get my security deposit back at the end of my tenancy?
    First, provide your landlord with your forwarding address in writing for where your deposit can be sent. As is the case with all communication during your tenancy, make sure you have proof of how you gave your landlord your forwarding address, such as a witness or confirmation that it was delivered by registered mail. See TRAC’s template letter. You can also write your forwarding address on the condition inspection report form.

    Once your tenancy has officially ended and you have provided your forwarding address in writing, your landlord has 15 days to do one of three things:
    • Return your deposit
    • Get your written consent to keep some or all of your deposit
    • Apply for dispute resolution to keep some or all of your deposit

Your landlord cannot simply decide that they are going to keep your deposit. If they want it, they need to have written permission from you or the Residential Tenancy Branch.
After 15 days, if your landlord hasn’t returned your deposit, obtained your written consent, or applied for dispute resolution, the law allows you to take them to dispute resolution for double the amount of the deposit.

  • I live in an off-campus apartment, and I am concerned about the fire safety of my apartment. What can I do about this?
    It is recommended that you first talk to your landlord about this. However, if you are not satisfied, you can ask for either a building or fire inspector to take a look at your place.


  • I am a student living in Homestay or Off-Campus Housing. Other than my medical insurance, do I need to purchase insurance coverage?
    Regardless of where you are living, it is your responsibility to have insurance coverage for your own belongings. This might be called Renter's Insurance or Tenant's Insurance.


  • I am covered under my parents' insurance. Do I still need to purchase my own insurance?
    Look carefully into your parents' insurance. What does it cover and not cover? Does it cover you only up to a certain age? Does it cover you in Canada? What is the dollar limit of your coverage? How long is the coverage good for?

 

"So many housing options to choose from! I wonder how other students decide what is best for them”. In this video, you’ll hear from other VIU students about their experience of finding the right housing, and their advice to help you make your choices.

Navigating rental regulations and understanding one’s Rights and Responsibilities as a tenant is a daunting task. Restrictions and changes in our world due to COVID-19 complicate things further. This video will help you understand the impacts of COVID-19 on renters and will provide you with resources to stay up-to-date and access latest information.

Feeling lost and unsure of what to do? Have you been searching for a place to live without much luck? In this session you will learn the dos and don’ts of apartment hunting, temporary accommodation choices, some tips and resources to help you make informed choices, and the rules of tenancy.

Worksheets & Resources from TRAC

Notice templates, worksheets to support your housing search, Law & Policy snippets, standard forms, other educational resources.

Rent Smart Education

Contact details for various organizations in BC supporting Tenant and Landlord Rights, Human Rights, Financial Literacy, communication and Mediation and several other organizations.

Have more questions about your Housing choices? Want to learn more about Off-Campus Housing?

Note: Booking an appointment using this button will prompt you to input your personal information including First Name, Last Name, and Email. This information will be collected for the purpose of this meeting only; it may be stored on a server that is located outside of Canada. By clicking on the button, you are consenting to this data storage disclaimer. If you are not comfortable with providing your personal information using this appointment scheduler, please email us at ie.housing@viu.ca.

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